Letter to Dr James R Hansen
from David Orbell
‘Apollo Was All About Landing’*
‘The Lunar Module was the most critical system in the entire Apollo program’*
‘For successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations for nature cannot be fooled’
*First Man pp320 & 616 by James R Hansen
Neil Armstrong, it is claimed, carried out 1,298 hours of training between January 15th 1969 and July 15th 1969. Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin trained fourteen-hour days, six days a week for six full months. Nearly a third of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s training time was spent inside the cramped quarters of the Lunar Module (LM) simulator, practicing their techniques for mankind’s first lunar landing.
It is a well-established part of the Apollo record that only during the last two weeks, before the launch of Apollo 11, that a satisfactory result was obtained from this training facility.
In the first part of June 1969, flight director Eugene Kranz wondered if he and his team would ever get it right (A Man On the Moon p172). Kranz’s predicament was simply how to stop the LM from crashing in the simulations. As to what the last minute technical remedy actually was that prevented the cancellation of the Apollo 11 mission has never been explained.
Miraculously, NASA had authorised, before this last minute reversal of failures, a ‘voyage to the Moon’ based on its estimate of a 50/50 chance of success for the astronauts.
Even on the morning of July 16th 1969 Armstrong considered that ‘the landing, in his mind was still a fifty-fifty proposition.’ (A Man on the Moon p183.) In reality, this meant that Armstrong accepted the fact that he had a one-in-two chance of being killed in the next few days.
Prior to this ominous event another 20 hours per week were taken up ‘reading, studying, doing paperwork, pouring over mission plans and procedures, talking to colleagues, travelling to training facilities, suiting up, getting suits off, and other routine work’ (First Man p374).
On the 21st February 1969 Neil visited, for the last time, the Moorhead Planatarium where he had trained eleven times previously, for a total of twenty days. This was for the purpose of perfecting his star navigation and observation techniques.
Neil Armstrong was in fact, by far the most qualified astronomer in the astronaut corps. He flew jet fighters at 40,000 feet for the specific purpose of studying star constellations, gazing in awe at the clarity afforded in such rarified conditions, as seen through his cockpit canopy. Neil Armstrong was indeed a star gazer with amazing resources. He had access to facilities that few men before could have dreamed of using.
Patrick Moore asked Neil at the post Moon landing press conference if he had seen stars from the Moon’s surface. Neil, looking surprised at such a question paused and answered – as if it hadn’t occurred to him to ‘think’ about the topic before – ‘I don’t recall seeing stars...’ he stammered. Mike Collins, looking equally ‘sheepish’ interjected that he also ‘couldn’t recall.’
Wherever Neil had been between July 16th and July 24th 1969 one would have anticipated a eulogy of ‘awe’ resulting from the vision of the majestic celestial bodies to which he had previously dedicated so much study.
Alternatively ‘shocked’ at the absence of stars from the Moon’s surface one may have expected some elaboration of puzzlement at this conference. Perhaps a gesture of exclamation? But only a nervous lack of recall following the recent extraordinary events. Something indeed did appear to be missing!
On top of the intense (if not super human) schedule, as already described Neil Armstrong at his own insistence, also flew the lunar landing training Vehicle (LLTV). Described by Andrew Chaikin in A Man on The Moon as ‘the most unforgiving flying machine ever built’ (p177). Of course Neil luckily survived a fortunate last moment ‘bale out’ on one occasion.
One can imagine most men, subjected to this punishing daily regime, would have difficulty simply driving home at night, yet alone setting off for the Moon on July 16th 1969, the day after their last simulator session.
Buzz Aldrin, who achieved only one hour less in training than Neil (1,297 hours) was not inspired by NASA or his own ‘hyper’ self determination – as emphasised by Professor Hansen – to put in even one flight in the admitted deadly LLTV.
Buzz is in fact joined in this almost unique feat of co-pilot indifference by Apollo 12 legend, Alan Bean, lunar module pilot who actually watched Conrad and ‘wondered what [he] was doing’ when flying the LM on their Moon landing descent (A Man on the Moon p259) – Bean also never having flown the LLTV. This statement of course conflicts with Armstrong’s belief that the ‘trainer’ was absolutely essential. Neil had been the prime advocate for its continued usage.
Of course, all commercial airline pilots train on simulators and various types of aircraft before working together as pilot and co-pilot. It would have been unthinkable for NASA astronauts to suffer such unequal preparation for the most hazardous expedition ever undertaken by man. The only explanation being that the Lunar Module (LM) like the LLTV was indeed ‘unservicable’, and therefore the procedure of using more than a ‘token’ number of pilots to risk their lives in the uncontrollable LLTV was simply never implemented.
Alan Bean admitted to video producer Bart Sibrel that the LM legs were not strong enough to support the vehicle simply standing in Earth’s gravity. Is it credible to assume that the named Apollo astronauts would have been prepared to accept the risk of ‘impacting’ such a fragile landing mechanism on the surface of the Moon? Clearly any compression of the legs would have exceeded the advantage obtained from the Moon’s reduced gravity, with fatal effect.
Questions, as put to Professor Hansen, remain unanswered (see letter below). It is possible that the many inexplicable anomalies of the Apollo space program will also continue to go unchallenged by the mainstream media, ensuring the continued apathy, as displayed by the public in general to this subject. Only by continued pressure from specialist researchers, such as those at Aulis and Bart Sibrel can any hope of a resolution to one of the greatest mysteries of all time be achieved.
The following was sent by post and email to Dr James R Hansen, Professor of History at Auburn University Alabama USA. As an historian for NASA, Dr Hansen recently published the first authorised biography of Neil Armstrong: First Man. Among other aerospace books he has also produced a study of the Apollo program’s lunar landing method.
16th November 2006
Dear Dr Hansen,
I have just read your new work First Man, congratulations on such a detailed definitive and thoroughly entertaining book.
I do have a couple of questions to put to you if you would be so kind as to consider the following. If you will excuse me for first referring to another author’s book: Andrew Chaikin’s A Man on the Moon, I have long been puzzled by the information contained on p172 (English Penguin edition) 20 lines down: ‘By the first part of June  there had been so many ‘crashes’ (LM simulator) that Krantz wondered if he and his team would ever get it right’.
It continues on p173: ‘One day late June ,’ going into detail of Armstrong and Aldrin ‘crashing’ again following a stuck thruster simulation. I have a recollection in another definitive account, that basically states the LM simulator couldn’t effect a landing for all practical purposes, right up to two weeks before the historic flight. This being the cause of the much quoted ‘only a 50/50 chance’ (of descent or ascent) by Armstrong and NASA officials.
We now come to First Man (UK paperback edition p383 ‘A few weeks after Apollo 10, Deke Slayton asked Armstrong: “Well how do you feel, what’s your assessment of how you stand. Are you ready?” Armstrong answered, “Well Deke, it would be ‘nice’ to have another month of training but I cannot in honesty say that I think we have to have it.(?)” Then after conferring with Gilruth, Low and Kraft, the announcement was made on June 11th(!) that the launch will be made on July 16th.’
Presumably the ‘few’ weeks after Apollo 10 would date the Slayton question to Armstrong even earlier than the simulator ‘crashes’ quoted above, but even if they were around the same time, how would it have been remotely possible for Armstrong (or NASA) to approve a launch as early as July 16th, given the massive risks involved as indicated by the simulation failures?
The second point, as an ex-pilot, that has always puzzled me is the following. This was again re-activated in my memory after reading the more detailed account in First Man, than the one that first caught my attention in A Man on the Moon. It relates to Buzz Aldrin’s total lack of practise in the lunar landing training vehicle.
As you so clearly emphasised, it was Armstrong’s insistence that the LLTV should continue to fly due to the essential gains to be derived from its use. Before reading your book I had no idea that he was the driving force for its retention. The two pilots did equal simulator time but incredibly only one flew the LLTV, so critical to both Armstrong and Aldrin’s survival should Neil be incapacitated during the descent or ascent.
This would have been contrary to all aviation precedent or natural common sense. Given the ‘drive’ of Aldrin, as you so ably display in the chapter ‘Amiable Strangers’ and coupled with Armstrong’s insistence regarding the LLTV usage, plus NASA’s overall commitment to aviation logic, this scenario leaves me totally baffled.
Thank you again for the wonderful read. I look forward to your comments on the questions posed above.